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Oxon Birding Weblog: September assessment

2022 Review


Birding in September, even in Oxfordshire, can sometimes
lead to a feeling of anticipation in the air – an atmosphere, a feeling that
anything can turn up anywhere no matter how unlikely although this feeling is
usually tempered by harsh reality. That been said, for most of us September was
going pretty good with patches across the county producing decent birding and
some good rarities were being found. On the 26th September though,
all hell broke loose and there can be only one headline bird!

Common Nighthawk

Courtesy of Brian Walker.

Bonkers, incredible, insane or amazing – pick your
adjective. No one, not even the most optimistic among us, had
on their radar within Oxfordshire’s borders – especially not on a
garden fence in urban
Wantage. Initially thought by the finder to be an
nightjar, a good county bird in its own right these days, it was
our astute county recorder who quickly realised this was in fact a full blown mega
and a first for the county. News quickly broke and the chaos and excitement
that ensues was soon underway, this really was a drop everything and go moment.
The locals were the first to arrive and a mix of bewilderment and joy could be
observed on most of their faces, everyone in a state of disbelief at the sheer
outrageousness of this record. The site of this incredible Atlantic crossing bird
sitting nonchalantly on a drab garden fence above a bright red Audi couldn’t
fail to put a smile on your face, an experience unlikely to ever be repeated
certainly not within Oxon.

Twitchers watching the Nightjar courtesy of Conor MacKenzie.

The nighthawk continued in its
place for the remainder of the day, occasionally turning 180 degrees or
stretching a wing much to the delight of the growing crowd. Towards dusk the
bird started to get more active and eventually took flight hawking briefly
before flying strongly south, an incredible end to an incredible day. With
upwards of 500 people making the trip from far and wide and several thousand
pounds raised for charity it was successfully run twitch with many a happy
birder! This constitutes the 26th record for the UK, a fact the
belies how incredibly difficult this species is to catch up with especially on
the mainland. More than half those records come from Scilly, and I am sure
there are plenty who revel in regaling tales of mythical encounters with these individuals
over the years. Well Oxon and this encounter has now entered itself firmly into
birding folklore for the 500 or so people who made the journey for this incredible

Courtesy of Badger


Curlew Sandpiper, courtesy of Richard Tyler

Last month I suggested we were overdue a curlew sandpiper
in the county and just like that the birding gods answered. One was present
on Ardley ERF on the evening of the 6th a well-earned patch
bird for the guys up in the north of the county, unfortunately for the rest of
us it departed overnight. Thankfully on the 22nd Farmoor hosted
another individual and it remained until the 23rd. Another much
sought after inland wader, little stint, also had a good showing in the
county with 10 birds in total recorded across three sites. Three birds at Otmoor
were present on the 6th before been flushed by sparrowhawk a
short while later. Another 3 were at Farmoor on the 21st with
one remaining until the 23rd allowing for some great photo
opportunities of this enigmatic little wader. Four dropped into Pit 60 on the 30th in inclement weather , a welcome reward for all the hours put in there by the local and a cracking count for our landlocked county.

Grey Plover, courtesy of Nick Truby

A single grey plover flew through and around Farmoor
on the evening of the 21st calling but refusing to land. Potentially
the same bird was then present on Port Meadow on the 22nd and
although it took a hammering from the local dog walkers it remained until the 28th.
An amazing record of 14 on the 22nd came from Farmoor but unfortunately,
they didn’t land. Records of Turnstone bookended the month with a single
bird on the 1st and another single on the 24th, whilst a
great count of 8 came on the 4th with all records relating to Farmoor.

Little Stint, courtesy of Richard Tyler

Farmoor had an almost continuous
presence of Ruff throughout the month with a max count of 8 on the 8th
and 1 remaining until at least the 25th. Additional records came
from Cassington with 6 on the 7th, Pit 60 from the 3rd
– 6th and Ardley ERF hosting a pair from 20th
until the 29th. Greenshank were recorded from 3 sites
(1st), Appleford GP’s (6th) and Radley
GP’s whilst
only a single Redshank was recorded outside of Otmoor
with one at Farmoor on the 7th.  Black-tailed godwit had a poorer
showing this month with almost all records coming from Stratfield Brake usually
relating to one bird but occasionally two recorded from the 1st
until at least the 19th. A single record came from

Ringed plover also had a semi
continuous presence at the great concrete bowl of Farmoor with birds
recorded throughout, a maximum count of 6 came on the 7th until the
8th. Only two sites produced further records with Pit 60 (1-3rd
& 24th) and Ardley ERF (20th– 24th)
with 2 birds at each.  Dunlin were
picked up at a least 4 sites and mostly related to single birds, with the
highest count coming from Farmoor with 8 birds on the 22nd.
Additional birds came from Pit 60 (1st-4th and the
25th), Bicester (19th-23rd) and Tar

Green sandpiper were recorded from at
least 10 sites from across the county with Ardley ERF producing the
largest count of 16 on the 9th with Bicester wetlands the
only other site to produce double digit counts. Common sandpiper records
were spread more thinly with 7 sites producing mostly ones and twos with Farmoor
holding 7 on the 8th of the month.

& Terns

An unexpectedly quiet period for gull and tern
records with the standout rarity a flurry of sandwich tern at the
beginning of the month.  Three were om Farmoor
briefly on the 1st frequenting both F1 and F2. A single bird
turned up, again on Farmoor, and fished around F2 before departing a
short while later.

Sandwich Terns, courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

Only a single
Caspian gull record came this
month with a lone 1
st winter on Farmoor on the 8th.
Yellow-legged gulls were also thin on the ground with only one record of
3 birds frequenting
Pit 60 between the 1st and 4th
of the month.
Pit 60 also played host to this month only record of Mediterranean
with winter plumaged bird present on the 1st.  


Ferruginous Duck, courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

The standout rarity this month was our 2nd
ferruginous duck of the year after the long staying drake back in February,
found on the 2nd and departing overnight. A stunning find on Grimsbury
of a drake, probably relocating from our neighbouring county of
Northamptonshire. The finder has some form of picking up rarities having found
the county’s first pallas’s warbler earlier this year.

Four common scoter were a great record coming
from Blenheim Palace brought in by inclement weather on the 19th,
they were present for only a couple of hours departing shortly after they were
found. A single record of black-necked
came from Dix Pit on the 24th whilst a single scaup was reported from Farmoor on the 18th although it was not relocated.

Black-necked Grebe, courtesy of Ian Elkins

Common Scoter, Blenheim, courtesy of Dave Doherty

There were several records
garganey from 4 sites in the county this month. An eclipse
drake at
Blenheim present from the 5th-9th with
possibly the same bird recorded at
on the 12th and
Appleford on the 25th. A record of 3 birds on Sonning eye GPs on the 5th was the first multiple records
since the summer months but they didn’t linger long.

herons etc

Last months glossy ibis pair relocated from the
summer haunt of Cassington GP’s to Stratfield Brake on the
outskirts of Oxford. The pair were first picked up on the 6th and
remained together until the 10th often associating with a black-tailed
. One bird departed and seemingly ranged around the county picked up
in Oxford (11th), Cassington GP’s and Otmoor (17th
– 18th). A single bird remained at Stratfield Brake on
and off from the 11th until the 27th.

Courtesy of John Workman

Cattle egret continued in the county with multiple
birds recorded across 9 sites, presumably all relating to birds from the now
established breeding colony from Blenheim. The usual sites recorded
birds through the month namely Pit 60, Otmoor and Chimney.
Birds became more mobile though, with a large flock of 18 recorded at Wytham
on the 15th whilst a whopping 42 were recorded at Kings lock on
the 24th.  

Courtesy of Steve Liptrot

After remaining at mostly two sites in the summer months great
white egret
became much more mobile with additional birds seemingly joining
the long staying birds in the county. At least 11 sites recorded birds and it
would seem a minimum of 4 birds were present through September, possibly more.
Four birds were reportedly all together at Stratfield Brake earlier in
the month. Several sites recorded 2 birds – Chimney (3rd), Blenheim
(8th) and Appleford (17th & 25th).
Only one Crane record came this month with one over Grove on the
5th, whilst a single Bittern was recorded briefly at Pit
on the 22nd before been flushed by the local gulls.


In what might have been the highlight in a previous
September, if not for a certain mega upstaging, a Yellow-browed warbler was
picked up calling in the Trap grounds by Port Meadow on the 25th.
Typically, elusive and mobile a few lucky observers managed to catch up with it,
but as is the case for many of records it was a one-day wonder and gone the
next day.

Wryneck, courtesy of Amy Get

September continued its run of form with Wryneck records
with no fewer than 3 individual birds recorded in the month. Unfortunately, all
3 were not widely available with one in Chipping Norton garden on the 3rd,
a bird ringed in Little Clanfield on the 11th and a
unfortunate bird that flew into a window in Kennington on the 18th
although thankfully it did survive. A very young looking juvenile black
appeared briefly in Stonesfield on the 13th but
unfortunately was only present briefly. Rock pipit started their annual
movements through the county with the first returning bird on the 21st
at Farmoor where it remained until at least the 24th when it
was joined by a 2nd bird. A single tree pipit was heard
calling amongst a large flock of meadow pipits at West Ginge, whilst
two pied flycatcher were in Buckthorn on the 4th.

Rock Pipit, courtesy of John Workman

Whinchat were recorded from 8 locations with a high
count of 5 recorded from Appleford on the 6th and Otmoor on
the 8th with Lark Hill also recorded 4 birds. Meanwhile
18 locations recorded wheatear mostly in singles and pairs but a
cracking count of 9 individuals came from Lark Hill on the 18th,
with only Devils Punch Bowl and Sarsgrove recording more than 2
birds with 3 on the 6th and 4th respectively. Redstart
were mostly recorded in singles from at least 12 locations with only Muswell
and Lark Hill recording more than one, with 3 on the 3rd
and 2 on the 7th respectively. Yellow wagtail continued to
move through the county with some great double-digit counts recorded. Wytham
had the best of these with a cracking count of 60 on 10th, whilst
30 were seen to roost on Otmoor on
the 3rd and at least 20 recorded at
Port Meadow on the 2nd.

Juvenile Black Redstart in a garden in West Oxfordshire, courtesy of Colm O’brien

Whinchat, courtesy of Jessia Crumpton


A tantalising record of a slim harrier species flying over Standlake
on the 11th unfortunately didn’t linger and its identification
remains a mystery, with several records of inland pallid harrier around
the same time this will have to be chalked down as a near miss. A ring-tailed hen
up on the downs at the Devils Punch Bowl on the 24th
was in no doubt however and hopefully a sign of more to come. Osprey continued
their long journey to west of Africa through Oxon airspace with 4 records relating
to probably 3 birds, a single bird at Otmoor on the 4th and
another at Farmoor on the 11th. A bird briefly at Blenheim
on the 17th was probably the same bird seen flying over Shillingford
later in the day.  

Merlin Otmoor rspb courtesy of Graham Parkinson.

The first returning short-eared owl came from Otmoor on
the 21st and remained until 22nd, whilst merlin also
returned with one over Milton Common on the 21st whilst a
showy individual was present at Otmoor on the 28th. Hobby continued
to remain in the county in small numbers with at least 5 locations still
hosting birds with a maximum count of 2 at Pit 60 throughout the month.

Osprey courtesy of Brian Manston

Look ahead

One might be forgiven for being complacent
for the rest of year given what has just transpired, but October still has the
potential to produce some decent birding and still might yet throw up the odd

Given we’ve just had a yellow-browed
already this month we might have had our fair share of eastern
sprites for 2022 what with a pallas’s warbler back in January. But October
is typically a very good month for finding these most loved of Siberian wanderers.
Since 2013 we have had 8 records in October with multiple birds in 2020, 2017
and 2013, so now is a good time as any to get out and listen out for a ‘Tswe-eep!’

Moving onto something a little
rarer – pectoral sandpiper has a good track record of turning up in September.
Who can forget the extremely confiding bird at Port Meadow last year? Port
has also hosted two birds way back in 2007 during this month and you
wouldn’t bet against the next record coming from there either. An even rarer wader
turned up here back in 2010 when a lesser yellowlegs remained throughout
the month and into early November, with one turning up in Yorkshire recently
and very quickly disappearing it would be a welcome bird indeed if it were to
make its way south!  

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